Human Rights First Urges Attention to Hate Crime at South Africa’s U.N. Human Rights Review
New York City – As South Africa prepares to undergo its mandated Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of human rights at the United Nations Human Rights Council this Thursday, Human Rights First calls on U.N. Member States, including the United States, to press South Africa to intensify efforts to respond to hate crime and bias-motivated violence. A shadow report co-authored by Human Rights First and ten South African civil society groups was submitted as part of the stakeholder process. In it, the organizations describe “a disturbing pattern of violent attacks, ranging from race-related attacks and targeted mob violence in residential and commercial districts occupied by foreign nationals, to severe beatings of LGBTI individuals and ‘corrective’ rapes and murders of lesbians, to arson and graffiti incidents targeting houses of worship.” “Hate crimes undermine the basic human rights of all individuals, as well as South Africa’s efforts to provide equality for all. The South African government’s response to these attacks must be a fundamental part of this review process,” said Human Rights First’s Paul LeGendre. The Human Rights First and civil society shadow report recognizes important steps that South Africa has made to address the problem, including “increasing high-level rhetoric in support of tolerance and nondiscrimination, condemning specific incidents, carrying out some of the recommendations that have emerged from inquiries into past outbreaks of hate crime violence, reaching out to and working with communities affected by hate crime violence, and taking short-term steps to improve inter-ministerial cooperation and adopt specific legislation to address hate crime violence.” The report also identifies significant shortcomings and charts out recommendations to address them. In particular, Human Rights First calls on U.N. Member States to seek the South African government’s commitment to take the following steps:
- Senior government officials should speak out consistently against all forms of hate crime and the relevant authorities should thoroughly investigate hate crimes and hold perpetrators accountable.
- The government should introduce legislation that expressly criminalizes violence against individuals or property on the basis of a person’s race, nationality, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and other such characteristics.
- Law enforcement agencies should develop the capacity to use police and justice statistics to monitor both hate crimes and the police response to them. This will help police, justice officials, and prosecutors overcome barriers to successful prosecutions.
To increase the likelihood that victims are willing to report hate crimes, law enforcement should build ties to community groups, and authorities should ensure thorough investigations and prosecution of police misconduct and abuse.